121 Middleton Way Sacramento CA 95864 US +1.916.698.2809 Luanne@LMLMarCom.com
All my life, I have been a joiner. In elementary school, I started a school newspaper. In high school, I was active in a dozen clubs. In college I joined a sorority and served three internships. In adult life, I joined local and national boards. I can’t help myself. I like to grow intellectually and am always curious what others are doing in other states and professions. I am a bit of a lifelong learning junkie.
So, as I sit here in my dining room, surrounded by my new team – three sleeping teens, three little dogs and a husband who knows little about marketing – I am thinking that since I became a consultant, I actually feel more connected and networked than ever before. Ironic. I was fearful that I would lose touch with my discipline or relationships and instead, I feel like my community has grown.
What I did not know, and I never read in any of the entrepreneurship books I devoured, is that when you start to work on your own, you naturally find others who are doing the same. There is a supportive community that helps each other. Within days, I had met about six other marketing-related consultants in the area, and I have received emails and contacts from several around the country. I have talked to many agencies who are interested in hiring professionals to help with projects but who have no interest in being on the regular payroll.
When you start out, it feels intimidating, but know that there are others who want to help you become successful. As you explore the world of consulting consider these action steps for building your own new community:
Local Consultants – a simple Google search will yield listings of others who do what you want to do, or who do things that you will need. I work as a strategist, but I do not have the skills to implement some of the strategies like Web site development or graphic design. I have started to build my “Google contact rolodex” with other freelancers who do work I cannot. That way, when I have a client who needs more, I have a list of talented professionals at my fingertips. I have tried to meet each one in person as well so that I can know something about them authentically and also introduce myself to them in case they can refer others to me as well.
Past Consultants – I made a list of consultants I hired over the past 25 years (from all over the country) and contacted each one to let them know that I was in the market. One immediately invited me to co-bid on a project with her. They also have become part of my community, and I call them when I am stuck in thinking something through or when I need a collaborator.
Agencies – I did not know until I started how many times agencies prefer to bring in consultants to help with projects. It is not financially prudent to try to keep all the talent on their own payrolls. You may have a niche that they cannot afford to keep full-time on their own books, and they may bring you in periodically for support. I also have talked to several agencies I hired in the past, and they helped me know what software is best for certain projects or gave me guidance on how to deal with difficult situations. They have been very generous in helping me understand the business aspects of consulting.
Symbiotic Relationships –I am getting occasional contacts from others who work in niche areas who want to partner. For example, a software company that makes a product for higher education contacted me, and I worked on a small brainstorming session with them about how to get their product in front of the right people. I want to think about how to grow this aspect more. Because marketing is ubiquitous, I am thinking there are many such partnerships that could be developed.
I have learned that one of the things you do not want to do when you consult is to say, “no.” If you have an active network, you can turn away projects, but do so with a list of others who may be able to step in and help. A helpful response is: “I’m not sure I am the right person for this job, but I know three other professionals who do this very well. May I contact them for you about this project?” And, as I think about new ways to grow my own business and frankly, my intellect, I want to continue to talk to others and think out of the box about how I can use my experience to help others. So, as you think about going solo, know that you never have to be alone. There’s a big and very interested, connected world out there for you to explore.
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